If 2013 was the year of anything, it was the year many realized our justice system wasn’t so fair after all.
There were short sentences for severe offenses, no prison sentences at all, and an overall sentiment of being let down by a system meant to protect us from crime.
But there was something else in 2013. There was the voice of the people. And in the face of failed justice, communities protested, demonstrated, and petitioned to make a change. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was in vain. But here are four high-profile cases in 2013 that made our blood boil, made us cry, and just baffled us altogether.
In December, we learned about the teenager who plowed through a crowd, killing four people and injuring another after he decided to drive drunk. At the time of the incident, Ethan Couch had a blood alcohol count of three times the legal limit for an adult. The four killed were Breanna Mitchell, whose car broke down, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who lived nearby and came out to help and youth minister Brian Jennings, who stopped to help. But due to his family’s wealth, psychologist G. Dick Miller argued that the teen was a product of too much privilege and had never been reprimanded for his actions and therefore was not responsible for his actions, calling him a product of “affluenza.” He was spared a prison sentence, but now faces five civil suits from the victim’s families. Texas prosecutors are still seeking to put the teen behind bars.
Arguably the most polarizing and heated case of the past decade, George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old walking home from a local convenience store. Zimmerman approached the teen and the two got into a scuffle before Zimmerman shot him to death. During the June/July 2013 trial, the defense argued that Trayvon was, in fact, armed with the sidewalk — an argument they perpetuated with photographs of Zimmerman’s head injuries. The prosecution, though they showed the ultimate of injuries (Trayvon’s dead body), could not prove that he killed the teen in ill-will. Zimmerman was acquitted in July, a decision that sparked national protests and demonstrations in honor of the unarmed teenager and the loopholes that allowed Zimmerman to walk free. Read more about the trial here.
30-Day Rape Sentence
In August, a high school teacher from Montana was sentenced to 30 days in jail after raping a suicidal student who later killed herself. Yellowstone County district judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years, but suspended all but 31 days, in part because Judge Baugh said the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. Outrage ensued. Prosecutors appealed the sentence and a petition was distributed to remove the judge from his position. Eventually, Rambold was released from prison, but he isn’t exactly free. He’s on probation for the next 14 years, 11 months.
Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was shot and killed on May 16, 2010 by a Detroit police officer during a raid conducted by the department’s Special Response Team. Her death was tragically caught on tape — the raid was being recorded for the hit A&E show The First 48. Aiyana was asleep on the couch when police raided the home in May of 2010. Detroit police were looking for a murder suspect, but came upon the 7-year-old first and shot her within seconds of entering. In October of 2011, a grand jury indicted Officer Joseph Weekley on involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. His trial, which took place in June, ended in a deadlocked jury. It has been rescheduled.
PHOTO SOURCE: Family Handout, Police Department, Getty